A majority of lamb (young sheep) or kids (young goat) mortalities during winter result from cold stress, hunger and parasite infestation, amongst others.

Therefore, with the commencement of the winter season, small stock farmers have to ensure that the lambing and kidding seasons progress well to achieve their production targets.

Agribank’s technical advisor for livestock and rangeland, Erastus Ngaruka, said generally animals’ breeding activities take place during seasons or times most favourable to their bodily functions and wellbeing.

For example, mating commences during times of plentiful forage resources and this is because the nutritional status of the animal has a direct influence on its breeding activities or conception.

“Well-maintained animals with good body conditions will have higher reproductive performance than those with poor body conditions,” said Ngaruka.

Demanding environment

He said the current lambing and kidding season results from December and January mating.

Other lambing/kidding seasons include September/October and March/April, which in turn can also be mating seasons.

“It is common to farmers that five months after mating they should expect ewes and does to commence with parturition (giving birth).”

Ngaruka said this is the most demanding stage of the season, and farmers must prepare to provide the necessary support to the ewes and does and ensure lambs and kids’ survival.

“It is very important to ensure that the animals are not exposed to risky conditions associated with or that will compromise their health status and that they are adequately fed throughout the season.”

Stress causes disease

He said some of the health conditions in small stock are predisposed by unhygienic kraal environments or conditions filled with parasites, dust, dirt and harmful objects.

Ngaruka said most of the time, young animals are kept in the kraals for long periods and are exposed to these conditions.

Dust inhalation and cold stress can result in lung infections (pasteurellosis or pneumonia) and eye infections when blown into the eyes.

According to him, the disease is predisposed by stress factors such as cold and dusty conditions and even during transportation, among others.

The symptoms include fast breathing, coughing, running nose, and loss of appetite. At post-mortem examination, the lungs are attached to the rib cage.

It can be treated with common antibiotics and prevented by vaccinating the animals (young and adult) and proper management of the stress factors, such as keeping the kraal environment clean.

Ngaruka said another major problem is the internal and external parasite infestation.

The most problematic external parasites attacking lambs and kids during winter are mites, lice and fleas. The common signs of infestation by these parasites are irritation, hair loss, and anaemia, among others.

These parasites can be controlled or eradicated by dipping or spraying the animals with anti-parasitic remedies. Injectable solutions can also be used. Internal parasites should also be controlled either with oral or injectable solutions, he said.

Shelter crucial

“During winter, extra care against the cold is needed. A shelter or a housing structure can be constructed especially for the most vulnerable animals to protect or keep them warm.”

He said one of the cheapest and simplest practices is to dig a trench in the ground to keep the lambs and kids overnight, but this can be a health risk because the trench can be dusty, causing lung infections and suffocating them if not well made.

“Generally, animals generate or increase their body heat through metabolism; therefore, it is advisable to ensure that your goats and sheep have enough roughage all the time during the winter in the evening.”


In conclusion, Ngaruka added that the survival and performance of a farmer’s animals depend on timely management interventions.

This, he said, starts with the preparation of the breeding stock for mating, care during gestation and parturition, and care for the young until weaning.

This includes a supply of enough feed and water throughout, carrying out all necessary vaccinations, protecting against adverse environmental conditions, and maintaining a clean farm and kraal environment.

He said all necessary equipment and remedies must be acquired in advance in order to provide first aid during complications. For example, antibiotics for bacterial illnesses or conditions such as retained placentas, diarrhoea, eye infections, and navel ills, amongst others, should be available all the time.

[Source – Republikein]

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